One of the interesting trends of 2009 has been the gradual decline of RSS Readers as a way for people to keep up with news and niche topics. Many of us still use them, but less than we used to. I for one still maintain a Google Reader account, however I don't check it on a daily basis. I check Twitter for news and information multiple times a day, I monitor Twitter lists, and I read a number of blogs across a set of topics of most interest to me.
Frankly I'm more likely to use Google Reader to search for specific information nowadays, than to scan my subscribed feeds for their latest posts. So what's happened to RSS Readers. Do people still use them and is there still a viable market for them?
In February 2007 we reported on the state of the RSS Reader market, based on statistics from Feedburner and Pheedo. At that point Google had 59% market share amongst web-based RSS Readers, followed by Bloglines with 33%, then Newsgator and Netvibes with 3% (note: this didn't count Newsgator's desktop apps, like FeedDemon). Pheedo's stats in February 2007 were somewhat different: Newsgator Online had 27% share, followed by MyYahoo! with 20%, Blogines 19% and Google Reader 13%.
The first time ReadWriteWeb looked into market share for RSS Readers was 5 years ago, in December 2004. At that point, very early in the web 2.0 era, Bloglines was the clear leader and Google Reader wasn't even a glint in the milkman's eye.
2009 Update on RSS Reader Market
Well, unfortunately Feedburner no longer publishes any useful data about RSS Readers. The product has been infrequently updated since Google acquired it in June 2007 and it no longer even has a proper blog (a Google blog called Adsense For Feeds was the closest I could find).
The best data we have then is ReadWriteWeb's own Feedburner account. Here is the top 10 for Dec 09:
1. Google Feedfetcher 85665 (includes both Google Reader and its start page iGoogle)
2. Bloglines 38797
3. Netvibes 34894
4. FriendFeed 16269
5. NewsGator Online 6753
6. Firefox Live Bookmarks 2999
7. PostRank 2454
8. Windows RSS Platform 1587
9. Mac OS X RSS Reader 1307
10. Zhuaxia 1127 (a Chinese RSS Reader)
Feedburner's numbers always need to be taken with a large grain of salt, nevertheless we can see that Google is now over twice the number of Bloglines. There's little sign of life on Bloglines' blog either and its Compete.com traffic numbers show a decline since June 2009.
Netvibes, FriendFeed, Newsgator and PostRank are the only other english language competitors showing in our Feedburner numbers. The others are either browser (Firefox) or operating system readers.
Also note that Newsgator shut down its online RSS Reader at the end of July this year.
Conclusion: Google Dominates, RSS Readers Less Relevant
These statistics are by no means the definitive RSS Reader market numbers. They do clearly show two things though:
1) Google now dominates what's left of the RSS Reader market. Bloglines is hanging in there, but it seems like it's given up the fight judging by lack of activity in its blog and traffic dips.
2) RSS reading is a very fragmented experience circa 2009. People can monitor news and information via Twitter, Facebook, start pages like Netvibes, their Firefox bookmarks, their OS, aggregators like Techmeme, and so on.
Tell us in the comments how you currently read your RSS feeds and how often you check them in an RSS Reader - if indeed you still use one...
Update: I should add that our news writers use a variety of RSS Readers daily.
Analysis, RSS & Feed Management, RSS Aggregators and tagged with
rss, rss readers
I've experienced this for sure. I used to be in google reader multiple times a day, now i check it a few times a week.
Posted by: Ken Warner
A few thousand geeks may be beyond Google Reader, but the rest of the world is barely beginning to notice readers. Neither of my daughters go to feed readers; one of my daughters uses her iPhone apps as a de facto RSS reader. And neither to any of my non-geeky friends. So I'm not sure being "over" Google Reader applies to any mass movement. And I also would make a bet that most people don't think consciously of Twitter as a source for news.
As for me, I maintain four Twitter accounts that I check every day, some more frequently than others. And I go to Google Reader in the morning and in the evening. Twitter is definitely my source for breaking news, but Google Reader is my way of aggregating all things I want to read but would otherwise space out
Posted by: Francine | December 20, 2009 8:25 PM
I use Google Reader multiple times per day. Twitter is nice for current events, but I don't grok how to stay up to date with it. Like, tweets happen on their time, which isn't necessarily when I'm ready for them. RSS lets me control when.
How do people keep up with a bunch of blogs and news without a feed reader?
Posted by: JEP
I still use Google Reader, and I've found it more useful now that I've got Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed to share articles on. So, interestingly enough, though those and other social services may be making RSS readers less useful, they've actually made GReader more useful for me. But then, that's me...
Posted by: Dennis Jernberg
I still rely heavily on RSS to get news and read interesting blogs. I have used NetNewsWire from the very beginning. I would never rely solely on Twitter, nor waste my time going to websites.
Posted by: CB
I think that rss readers are now more useful than 3 years ago,given that rss is the de facto standard for social sharing, but the readers need to evolve in their GUI, that definitely looks soooo boring compared with twitter and facebook. I'm pretty sure that in 2010 we'll see a big evolution of rss readers, processing life and news streams in the same interface.
Posted by: Marco A Torres
Why is RSS reading the fragmented experience and not Twitter + fb + startpages + Techmeme?
I can't quite figure out how to use Twitter or Facebook as a feed reader. They seem more like feed notifiers to me; a way to see that there is a new blog post or news story without getting the post or story directly. They are a way for friends to say "hey, check out this post" or for blogs to say "look at what we just posted". It's a great way to get exposed to information from unfamiliar sources, but less convenient than a feed reader for keeping up with blogs or news sources you already know about and rely on. Rather then follow a link in a tweet from a known blog, isn't it easier to read the article directly in a feed reader where it can be saved, shared, emailed, and sent to other sources, including Twitter and Facebook, usually with one click? I can't figure out how this can be done with Twitter or Facebook. Is there a how-to guide somewhere?
Posted by: almostinfocus | December 20, 2009 9:10 PM
I'm with Francine. ditto, ditto, and ditto. I'd add that I think RSS is stuck in an awkward place now, with most still in the dark that it's possible to get news without browsing. Yes, people use Twitter, but speaking of stats, seen those lately? Most of the tweets coming from 5%, and most of it in the me-statements category. So again, the Scobles of the world are getting all their news from the news providers that've learned to echo on Twitter, but most of the users are still just using it to self-cast.
So RSS is unknown by most of the pack, left behind by the earliest adopters, and the few middle-grounders like us are in its sweet spot.
And besides, why do we all have to like the same thing, Digerati? What is this, middle school? God forbid a bunch of you like something and just shut up and use it, and stop whining about what you've left behind... Oh, I'm sorry, do we all need to go to the bathroom now?
Posted by: John Eich
I tend to check Google Reader multiple times a day. While I do keep up with bigger news through Friendfeed or Twitter. I like to keep up with multiple Graphic Design blogs, tech blogs, entertainment blogs, photography blogs and Apple blogs on my own. I just can't see myself ditching RSS Readers for something that I really don't have much control over.
I use multiple rss readers all day, every day ;) that's how I find most of what I write here that then gets shared around Twitter
Posted by: Marshall Kirkpatrick
Great article, we've been tracking RSS (As in having a feed meta tag in a site's homepage) at BuiltWith and it looks like it has started to decline around August 2009 -
Whilst Atom has been on the steady incline -
Been interested to know why that is.
I read magazines and they are still delivered in my mailbox.
I read several dozen blogs and they are delivered through my reader (Google Reader).
My rule is: If the author didn't spend 10x longer writing the article than it would take for me to read, then it's not worth my time to read.
Posted by: Rob | December 20, 2009 9:29 PM
I still use rss2email (which is not surprising since I'm the project maintainer) to deliver new entries from my feed list every 30 minutes. My email client is always-on so I'm pretty much always aware of what's new.
Posted by: turbodog
I'd go further, we no longer need rss or twitter or ... specific "readers", instead we need apps that "ignore" the serialization type...
It seems that because of googles dominance with google reader that there has been now noticeable evolution in news aggregator features beyond the obvious sharing features.
I think that many issues having to do with the "reliability" and "authenticity" of news could be addressed by users of feed aggregator
Google Reader is my primary news source and probably my favourite webapp. I use it not only as a constantly evolving newspaper, but to share and to create new snippets using the "Note in Reader..." bookmarklet. I also subscribe to others' interests and see what they have marked to share with me.
If you haven't used Reader's social features then I can understand why you're still thinking it's just a serialized feed.
I honestly can't understand why Twitter can be considered a news source other than as an alert that something is happening so I should go look elsewhere for details. I like it for neighbourhood gossip ("Oh, a new store opened around the corner."), but beyond that there's so much noise.
The difference to me is that there's an article behind the RSS headline in Google Reader. Not just 140 chars of fluff surrounded by a cloud of self-importance. Plus, with PubSubHub I do see breaking news in Reader.
Posted by: Eric | December 20, 2009 9:57 PM
I use Google Reader to absorb, share, and save daily news. I'm not sure Twitter will ever replace this - but then again I probably thought G Reader would never replace nytimes.com
Posted by: jared zlotnick
I'm in NetNewsWire right now, so there.
I dunno, I get that there are other sources - but I just haven't totally moved on. I use Twitter in addition, but don't necessarily find anything outside of the people I follow on a daily basis.
I don't use a RSS Reader
Why should i? I bookmark the RSS on my firefox toolbar and as and when required check the subject lines. If something appeals me i go to the actual website and read it,
I use NetNewsWire on my iPhone almost daily. It's the main place I actually find time to read feeds, when I'm standing in line for coffee or wherever I find a few minutes. Thanks to Instapaper I'm not worried about getting sucked into something as it's so easy to just read it later.
RSS is far from dead. While many geeks may have moved on, my sisters just discovered it in recent years. They have no idea what twitter is, what to do with it, or why they should care.
Posted by: sjs
I use Google Reader to read news everyday - there's no better way to search for a specific topic from a wide range of publications including magazine sites and smaller blogs. Google News/ Google Alerts on their own fail at this. And sending Google Alerts to Google Reader is so much more efficient than having them clog up your inbox.
Posted by: Malorie | December 20, 2009 10:11 PM
I use Feedly several times a day, supplemented by Twitter. I've been playing with Lazyfeed lately, really dig its new interface and have discovered new sources with this new tool.
Rarely go directly to blogs anymore. I jump from feedly to blogs, instead.
For what I do, a lot of the info I consume is visual, so I still rely on flickr, youtube and tumblr for most of that.
Posted by: Rick | December 20, 2009 10:14 PM
Google Reader, daily.
Posted by: Dirk Krause
I use Google Reader. Have tried using Twitter but miss a lot if I am not on Twitter. At least with Google Reader I know I won't miss anything
Posted by: Peter | December 20, 2009 10:16 PM
This will go down as one of the most beaten to death topics of 2009, imo.
But I'll bite. Google Reader, couple times per day, read through Feedly. There are times when I go days without checking the feeds, but usually scroll back to any missed articles. Something twitter cannot do, the info just flys to fast to use twitter as a news reader/gatherer.
Posted by: Joseph
I check my Google Reader on pc/phone more than I do Twitter or Facebook. I feel a sense of impending doom if I haven't cleared it out.
Posted by: Alex Williams | eROI
RSS feeds and Twitter can be combined. See http://www.analyticbridge.com/group/collectiveintelligence/forum/topics/tweepsearch-to-searchrank
I live in Google Reader 3-4 hours a day. I use "Share" to add to my Shared Items list. This list is pulled into my blog site witha WP Google Reader plug-in and make a nice list, so my blog readers see what I'm interested in. Also FriendFeed gets immediate notification via PubSubHubBub and posts my shared items to FriendFeed and then FF shortens the URL and ships it off to my Twitter account. Usually faster than I can switch tabs and view the posts.
So I can browse, read and share to 4 places all within Google Reader. I can also email items to specific people if I want to. What couldn't be simpler?
I'm subscribed to RWW in Google Reader, and I just read this post in Feedly.
Posted by: Daniel | December 20, 2009 10:25 PM
RSS always has been and will be a back-end technology that powers many of the front-end services we use every day. Feed readers have always hovered around 8-12% consumer adoption. The fact that Feedburner and similar services haven't iterated much in the past few years, while disappointing, is hardly cause for hyperbolic speculation about the 'death of RSS.' Feeds aren't going anywhere any time soon.
Posted by: Dan | December 20, 2009 10:28 PM
I use Google Reader via browser on my BlackBerry, and Firefox add-on Feedly (which is 100% in sync with Google Reader) on desktop/laptop, several times a day.
Posted by: HenkJan van der Klis
I think RSS is still essential. It's how I order and arrange my personal little newspaper-view on the world; I mean it's like my customised newspaper. I use MyYahoo from habit. Everything from Blogs, news items, comics, even some basic tools. The beauty is the selective control over your channels - sometimes twitter becomes too much of an always-on channel. With RSS it's about serious-length content, and will be ready and waiting and easily-overviewed when I'm ready.
I've had hard time getting on board the Twitter wagon. Too much noise and I frankly don't care for second or third hand information. Ironically I contribute to the high volume by pushing my own RSS onto Twitter. I just don't use it as a source of information. Twitter's near real time update of course is great. Often, by the time I look at a RSS feed, it has been "liked" by a handful of people, read, by many more. Google Reader update rate is still plenty fast, after all I do have to work and tear myself away from the web at least periodically, as I imagine most people do. This post has me consider tracking Twitter accounts of the content makers to whose RSS feeds I presently subscribe, the 263 of them... Or, resist the coolness factor and remain quaintly backward. The web is unforgiving however, novelty rules - everything else withers, I am afraid that such will be the fate of RSS. What am I missing about Twitter? Or, is the face of the web a small technocratic elite and plenty of "sheep"?
I started using rss through opera browser few years back, I instantly switched when google launched its rss reader.I have been using it since then , the reason I switched was I can access it from anywhere and the sharing option with friends/family through email was a plus. I live on the reader 24/7 @work plus @home for any kinda updates.Recently I have added some of the ppl from twitter to follow them in the reader, so that I don't miss any important info.
After twitter launched its lists feature ,I am slowing moving to seesmic on web , 3 tabs which are always open in my browser are gmail,google reader and seesmic.
Posted by: mdanuz | December 20, 2009 10:39 PM
I just read some interesting and important news everyday, so RSS is not necessary for me, too busy to have a rest.
I use Google Reader daily, and I actually just started using it this year. I love that I can just star items for later if I don't have the time to actually read the article. I like twitter for breaking news and keeping up with people, but I barely know anyone who actually uses twitter for anything but chit-chatting aside from myself, and those that I do know IRL that use twitter rank few in numbers. I don't think RSS readers are dead, obviously since i just started using one,and I think Twitter has a long way to go before people will take it seriously enough to rely on it as a main news source.
Posted by: Lianna Sharon Davis
There's no way I can read hundreds of news articles and keep up with the world each day unless I use Google Reader. With only a few buttons (and no mouse) I can scroll through hundreds of articles. I spend my morning with Google Reader similar to how my parents used to spend hours reading newspaper, but now I read more, much faster, and in more details if I want to.
I haven't found anything else that's faster and more configurable than Google Reader. My guess as to why RSS is going down is that there's way more distractions today, such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are fine for entertainment, but nothing beats good information than using Google Reader to read good RSS streams.
Posted by: Kevin | December 20, 2009 10:53 PM
I read RWW in NetNewsWire. The difference is that if I miss a few hours or even days of Twitter, well so what. On the other hand, there is one folder of feeds in NNW that I feel it's unacceptable when I don't at least glance at everything those people have to say.
I have Google Reader and try to go through it at least once a week, but sometimes I leave it for 2-3 weeks
Posted by: Simon G | December 20, 2009 11:02 PM
Like what some others are saying....
I can't afford to miss any post on some sites, and Google Reader is still the best way for me to make this happen. Twitter lists of sites could work, I just like the feed-reader experience more because I can see more of the article without having to click.
Also, interestingly, I told my college-age sister about Google Reader and now she's hooked.
But even Google Reader isn't that amazing. I find the search function pretty bad given that this is a Google product. Maybe we just need better RSS readers? Maybe more people will want to start using them as they use the web for work, school research, etc.?
I'm not holding my breath on those last points, I just think/hope RSS readers still have a place.
Posted by: Eric | December 20, 2009 11:03 PM
I use feeds now more than I ever have in the past. Twitter accounts I want to follow, but which are primarily just pushing information without interacting, go into Google Reader instead of being followed on Twitter. I also use Google Reader to save backup copies of my own Twitter account (this is really useful when you want to refer back & find something quickly).
I depend on feeds for news and information, and for keeping up-to-date with several blogs I read.
Being able to organise feeds into categories and having a good search function make readers invaluable tools for me.
Even so, it has been Twitter that has increased my use of feeds. Time zone differences mean a lot of good information can be missed in a tweet stream. Pulling the important streams into a reader means the information is readily available.
Posted by: Lynne Pope
I agree. I've been using Google Reader since long time ago and I only use it as a database for searching information, along with Firefox bookmarks and Google itself.
Posted by: Christian Castelli
I'm similar to Rino (#33) and sjs (#21). For me, it's all about creating my own private magazine, tailored to my interests, on my *off-line mobile device*.
I use NewsRob on Android to pull the most recent 250 articles from Google Reader via my home wifi. Then I walk out the door and head for the commuter train, where I will read my feeds while other poor souls are stuck with the newspaper. Same on the way home and late at night when I'm rocking the baby to sleep.
Feeds on laptops: maybe kinda lame. Feeds on mobile: awesome.
I've got to say, this article blew me away. Not because I agree with the premise - the decline of RSS - but because of how much it missed the mark with regards to my personal habits. I (and it appears the majority of the commenters) depend on RSS readers to get my news. I check Twitter and use it to find interesting links, but as a news source it would be terrible. My use of Twitter, which may be different from the digerati that follow this blog, is only occasional and is more about monitoring trends / people. The other alternatives like Facebook or Friendfeed aren't all that appealing as substitutes either. And I can never go back to browsing individual websites.
I still use Google Reader daily. Twitter and such cannot replace the functionality of RSS readers. Some bloggers I follow dont use Twitter and even if they would I would most probably miss some of theie posts w/o an RSS reader.
Posted by: Max | December 20, 2009 11:41 PM
I agree that Twitter isn't a very good tool for keeping up with important information.
I actually read this story from one of the latest desktop communication devices called eLert Gadget which also doubles as an easy to use, straight forward RSS reader.
Unlike Google reader and feed demon its a lot easier to use:
Posted by: Internet Corporation
While I recognize there is not a growing market for stand-alone RSS readers, saying RSS is in disarray is like saying HTTP is in disarray. I use Google Reader many times a day, every day. When not in front of the laptop, I get my RSS on my iPhone via my6sense. The day I stop reading RSS feeds is the day I stop reading the Web (this site included).
This ridiculousness about not needing RSS or readers because of Twitter has really got to stop. Twitter is great, but it's only part of the story. Blogs are hugely valuable and the best way to keep up with them is still RSS. Google is such a huge brand name they have been able to take over the RSS reader space and that's just the way it goes. The fact that there are few competitors anymore is testament to the fact that it's probably not a good business strategy to go straight up against Google, especially when their technology is free. With the new advances is realtime RSS we will see the continuation of RSS as a valuable and important technology.